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Health Highlights: Feb. 8, 2007

Scientists Reverse Rett Syndrome in Mice Turkey Reports New Bird Flu Outbreak Male Sweat Causes Hormonal Changes in Women First Large-Scale Trial of HIV Vaccine Set to Begin Canada Confirms Another Case of Mad Cow Disease

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:

Scientists Reverse Rett Syndrome in Mice

By resorting the function of a gene, U.K. scientists were able to reverse the symptoms of Rett syndrome in mice, says a study published Thursday in Science.

The childhood neurological disease, which primarily affects females, can cause a number of severe symptoms, including loss of speech, abnormal movements, tremors and seizures, along with breathing, chewing and swallowing problems.

In this University of Edinburgh study, researchers fully restored the function of a gene (MECP2) associated with Rett syndrome. This resulted in a reversal of symptoms in mice, even those that were on the verge of death.

The findings suggest that it may be possible to reverse Rett syndrome and related disorders in humans, even in the late stages of the disease, the researchers said in a prepared statement.


Turkey Reports New Bird Flu Outbreak

Bird flu has reappeared in Turkey, and officials are conducting tests to determine if it's the dangerous H5N1 strain, Agence France Presse reported.

The Agriculture Ministry said a 10-kilometer radius quarantine zone has been established around the village of Bogazkoy, where 170 chickens died. The government learned about the deaths on Monday. It's believed the virus was brought into the area by migratory birds.

About 900 chickens, turkeys and ducks in Bogazkoy will be slaughtered, AFP reported.

The last recorded bird flu case in Turkey was March 31, 2006. That marked the end of a major H5N1 outbreak that claimed the lives of four children in the eastern region of the country. More than 2.5 million birds were slaughtered in order to control the outbreak.


Male Sweat Causes Hormonal Changes in Women

Hey guys, you can toss out the expensive cologne. Your sweat is enough to grab a woman's attention, according to scientists at the University of California, Berkley.

The found that male sweat contains a musky-smelling chemical called androstadienone that can lighten a woman's mood and heighten her sexual arousal. It can also speed up a woman's heart rate, increase her blood pressure, and raise levels of the stress hormone cortisol, the Daily Mail (U.K.) reported.

This is the first evidence that humans -- like moths and butterflies -- give off a scent that has a physical effect on members of the opposite sex.

The study appears in the Journal of Neuroscience.

"Many people argue that human pheromones don't exist, because humans don't exhibit stereotyped behavior. Nonetheless, this male chemical signal ... does cause hormonal as well as physiological and psychological changes in women," study leader Claire Wyart, a post-doctoral fellow, said in a prepared statement.


First Large-Scale Trial of HIV Vaccine Set to Begin

The world's first large-scale trial of a vaccine to protect against HIV -- the virus that causes AIDS -- is set to begin in South Africa, BBC News reported.

An international team of researchers will oversee the four-year trial, which will include 3,000 HIV-negative men and women, ages 18 to 35. Researchers hope the study will offer insight into how the vaccine works in heterosexuals and especially its effectiveness in women.

During the trial, some participants will receive the vaccine and others will be given a placebo. All the participants will receive education about safe sex, BBC News reported.

The study was reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and was approved by the South African Medicines Control Council and the South African Department of Agriculture.

Even if this trial provides positive findings about the vaccine, created by the drug company Merck, further studies would have to be conducted before the vaccine could be licensed.

There is no live HIV in the vaccine, which contains copies of three HIV genes. It's hoped that exposure to these genes will prompt the body's immune system to recognize and destroy cells that contain HIV, BBC News reported.


Canada Confirms Another Case of Mad Cow Disease

Canada said Wednesday that it has confirmed its ninth case of mad cow disease since 2003, CBC News reported.

Officials said a mature bull that died on an Alberta farm last week tested positive for the disease. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said no part of the animal had entered the human food or animal feed systems.

The agency, which did not reveal the bull's age, is currently searching for animals born within a year of the infected bull that may have been exposed to the same feed source, CBC News reported.

"These animals are removed, destroyed, tested and disposed of in a manner that they do not enter the feed system," said George Luterbach, the agency's senior veterinarian for Western Canada.

The United States closed its borders to Canadian cattle exports in 2003, but re-opened the border to young cattle in July 2005. A proposal to open U.S. borders to older cattle from Canada is under public review until March 12.

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